(Part 1 of 4)
We decided to sit down and have a chat with our practice owner and MD, Dr. Philip Oubre, and functional nutritionist, Aubree Steen.
We’re diving into another 4 part series. We’re diving into part 1 here, following with:
1. Our gut and it’s role in the immune system
2. Factors that suppress your immune system
3. How to support your immune system
4. The differences between COVID-19, the flu, and a common cold
Feel free to watch the video, or read our transcript below.
Aubree Steen, FNTP (00:00):
Dr. Philip Oubre (00:01):
Aubree Steen, FNTP (00:01):
Aubree and Dr. Oubre here. So this month we’re going to focus on immunity, since we’re now moving into the season where you start to get sick and our immune system ends up being a little lower than we want it to be. So we’re going to have a four-part series. The first one is going to be our gut and how it’s related to the immune system and its role in the immune system. Then we’re going to tell you things that suppress your immune system, how to support your immune system, then Dr. Oubre’s going to dive into the differences between COVID and the flu and cold and what to expect, so.
Dr. Philip Oubre (00:30):
Aubree Steen, FNTP (00:30):
Dr. Philip Oubre (00:31):
So the first part of our how gut health affects your immunity, because, as functional medicine, we generally have the saying that 80% of your immune system is based on what happens in your gut. So that seems foreign because most people don’t walk around with raging intestinal infections and things. But if you think back to how children start in this world, how we all started in this world, it’s a very … you put everything in your mouth, and the theory goes behind why children put everything in their mouth, the idea is that their immune system is very naive and doesn’t know what’s normal in their environment. So they’re putting normal things that are in their environment into their mouth, which is ultimately exposing their GI tract when they swallow their saliva and all that.
Dr. Philip Oubre (01:12):
And that is allowing the immune system to start studying what’s normal. What’s supposed to be there. What am I used to seeing? That way, when a foreign invader comes along and says, “Hey, I know what normal looks like. That’s abnormal and I’m going to attack it.” So, there’s all kinds of immune reactions that happen in the gut, and there’s all kinds of things that can of course go wrong, which we’ll kind of get into the details. But the important part to realize is that if anything is going wrong in your gut, it will throw everything off in your immune system. So specifically food is one of the big things that we talk about. So why don’t you take that away, Aubree? How does food confuse the immune system or support gut health?
Aubree Steen, FNTP (01:50):
One of the biggest things is that we have to realize that the majority of our immune system is dependent on basically the microbes in our gut. They kind of teach our immune system how to react. We’ll dive into this in a little bit, but you have to also take into consideration, is your gut … do you have a healthy microbiome? What I mean by that is, do you have an abundance of beneficial bacteria and just a little bit of yeast, fungus, pathogenic … you should always have a little bit. You’re not going to ever have 100% beneficial bacteria, but what’s the balance there?
Aubree Steen, FNTP (02:19):
Do you have severe dysbiosis where you’re in treatment? Even at our practice, where you have severe fungal or modal overgrowth, or do you have parasites, something that’s compromising your microbiome? So you need to take that into consideration.
Aubree Steen, FNTP (02:32):
But one of the biggest things is that food affects the immune system in multiple ways, because what happens is that a food can either be pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. Food can also cause an immune response and a provocation, or it can just be nourishment to our bodies. I think one of the biggest things that we need to realize is digestion plays a huge key in this. So if you’re not properly digesting your food … and we have a whole video on how this works, so please go refer to that. We’re not going to dive into that today. If you’re not breaking down your food correctly, then basically what happens is our body’s supposed to see a food.
Aubree Steen, FNTP (03:06):
So let’s see if we eat an Apple, right? Our body will break that down and go through multiple steps, and eventually the bacteria in our gut go, “Oh, delicious.” They ferment the fiber. They produce short chain fatty acids that help our immune system, help our brain function, and they actually build more beneficial bacteria. But where we go wrong is, let’s say that you eat a ton of conventional apples that have been sprayed with glyphosate or Roundup, or have some weird, strange chemical on them, herbicides, you name it. All of a sudden, now you have a toxin attached to that food particle. Then it goes into your body, and now your gut goes, those bacteria who have this mimicry of they understand what food is now they see, “Okay. I thought that was an Apple, but that’s actually toxic now. And now your body starts to react to those types of foods. And what can happen … Oh.
Dr. Philip Oubre (03:54):
Well, I was going to add, in addition, those chemicals that they spray on conventional foods and things are designed to have a longer shelf life. And some of those are antifungal, antibacterial. So that’s what your gut is full of, is bacteria and fungus. So if you’re constantly swallowing things that are antibiotic and antifungal, then it can create more disruption.
Aubree Steen, FNTP (04:12):
Right. Yeah. So we actually need to rely on those microbes to tell our immune system how to react, right? So if the majority of our food is going into our body is toxic or is adulterated, hydrogenated, has the molecular structure actually changed, like gluten nowadays, our body doesn’t understand, those bacteria don’t understand. Now you’re damaging the beneficial bacteria that are needed to help modulate the immune system and you’re increasing the growth of the pathogenic bacteria, the yeast and the fungus and the mold, which are known immune suppressors. Right?
Dr. Philip Oubre (04:45):
So I want to touch on that a bit, because we commonly say immune suppression, and really in the functional medicine world, we kind of think of it more as immune confusion, but that doesn’t sound as sexy as immune suppression. So the idea behind mold or candida or whatever may be overgrowing your gut, it really is an immune confusion. It says, “Hey, look over there,” instead of, “Look in here,” because your immune system is really powerful. It’s really good at what it does, but organisms, specifically mold, has learned to kind of evade your immune system. Lyme is another one that’s learned to evade your immune system.
Dr. Philip Oubre (05:19):
One of the ways that evades it, it says, “Hey, go look over there,” and that’s one of the theories behind why we believe mold and Lyme and all these other inflammatory conditions are associated with autoimmunity, because your immune system is held to a very rigorous testing. Every immune cell that’s created is tested to identify self. If at any point it identifies self that immune cell is killed or right on the spot. It’s done. It never makes it out into the circulation.
Dr. Philip Oubre (05:44):
So if that happens and how do auto immune cells make it out into the circulation? The idea is these immune cells have been confused and they are attacking itself unintentionally, or there’s so much inflammation in the body that it’s just of attacking anything and everything. Then as Aubree mentioned, there’s also the molecular mimicry idea of why we develop autoimmunity.
Dr. Philip Oubre (06:05):
But we primarily, when we’re treating patients with auto-immunity, we always go to the gut first, and in general, no matter what the gut issue, whether it be poor digestion, whether it be mold, candida, bacteria, whatever, we can normally see people 80% better just by treating their gut before we even get into all the fancy detox, metals, all that stuff.
Aubree Steen, FNTP (06:24):
Right. Because we talk about the bacteria and their role in breaking on fiber and how you … in food in general, right? And they’re kind of the forefront of … they decide what our food gets turned into, but that’s kind of an example of having a beneficial growth. But what can happen is when you have an overgrowth of yeast and pathogenic bacteria and fungus, you’re contributing to things like leaky gut, right? Intestinal permeability, you’re actually giving those microbes power. And those are known kind of facilitators of our immune system in a negative way.
Aubree Steen, FNTP (06:57):
And the one thing with leaky gut, we kind of want to bring that back, is when you have an abundance of yeast, fungus, and mold and pathogenic bacteria, you already have some form of leaky gut.
Dr. Philip Oubre (07:06):
Yep, [crosstalk 00:07:08].
Aubree Steen, FNTP (07:07):
So whether if they create it or if it was there first and they allowed it to grow, you have these intestinal barriers, these cells and they call it, it’s permeability. And what we’re talking about is paracellular, so it’s between the cell. So what happens is that you’re supposed to have really, really tight junctions. Nothing’s supposed to get through there. If you were to try to prime my hands open, it’d be literally impossible. You may be a little stronger than me, but in the grand scheme of things, impossible.
Aubree Steen, FNTP (07:34):
But what happens is with poor diet, poor digestion and overgrowth of the bad bacteria, and when you have toxins in your body, those cellular junctions end up becoming open. What happens is that pathogens and toxins and food particles even, they go through and they cross that barrier. What happens is anything that passes through here means there’s a constant provocation of the immune system. And you don’t want that, because now you’re reacting to almost everything, perfectly healthy foods, any kind of issue in your body that could be in your gut.
Dr. Philip Oubre (08:05):
Agreed. So testing the immune system is actually quite complicated and there’s really no good one task like, “Oh, I’m going to test my immune system.” So it really, in the functional medicine world, we have to do a lot of kind of roundabout testing to find out how well your immune system works. So the kind of two ways you look at it is either if you have a lot of inflammation, then you know your immune system is confused and attacking self, so to speak.
Dr. Philip Oubre (08:28):
Or number two is, if you’re testing immune levels and you see low levels, then that indicates kind of, once again, immune suppression, or once again, immune confusion. So, the two ways you can do that, of course, inflammatory markers are easy to test. Any doctor can check them, hsCRP is an easy one that anyone, everyone can draw, and ESR, estimated sedimentation rate, also called a SED rate.
Dr. Philip Oubre (08:53):
There’s all kinds of other fancy things you can do, like micro albumin, creatinine ratio in the urine, Lp-PLA2, myeloperoxidase, oxidized LDL-
Aubree Steen, FNTP (09:01):
Dr. Philip Oubre (09:02):
TMAO. Those are a little more complicated markers, but if you want to ask your doctor for one marker, it’s hsCRP marker. That’s the best marker. If it’s normal, it doesn’t mean you don’t have an issue, but if it’s abnormal, greater than one, then you know you’ve got some sort of inflammation.
Aubree Steen, FNTP (09:17):
Yeah, we want less than one.
Dr. Philip Oubre (09:18):
Yep. The other marker that we like to look at, and once again, any conventional doctor can order this. It’s in a stool study, but it’s called a fecal secretory IGA. And this fecal secretory IGA marker is in your stool, of course, and it’s a marker of how well your immune system is reacting to whatever’s in the bowels.
Dr. Philip Oubre (09:37):
Now this is an interesting marker, because you don’t want it too low, but you don’t want it too high. So almost inevitably, whenever that marker is too low, whenever it’s close to zero or undetectable, there’s always candida or mold, one of the two growing the bowels or the patient’s exposed to.
Dr. Philip Oubre (09:53):
And then secondary, if the IGA is really high, the fecal secretory IGA is really high, not the blood because you can do a blood IGA, but this is a fecal secretory IGA. I mean, if the blood is low, the same rules apply. But at the fecal secretory IGA is really high then that says that you’ve got such a bad overgrowth in your bowels of whatever it may be, that your immune system is on high alert in an inflammatory state. So there’s kind of the inflammatory immune confusion, then there’s just the kind of immune suppression, immune confusion. Mold and candida to like to do the immune suppression confusion. Typically, bacteria love to cause the inflammatory version.
Aubree Steen, FNTP (10:28):
Right. Because when you and I see that, most commonly with mold, especially mycophenolate or mycophenolic acid, which you all know in the hospital as CellCept, which is a known immunosuppressor.
Dr. Philip Oubre (10:39):
Right. So that’s been a kind of interesting thing as we’ve learned more and more about mold. We test for mold, you can check a mycophenolic acid level, but mycophenolate is sold as a drug. Anyone with a transplant knows CellCept. It’s commonly used in autoimmune conditions, inflammatory conditions, but it’s basically a mold toxin that they’ve designed into a drug to be an immune suppressant. So if that doesn’t prove that mold is an immune suppressant, I don’t know what other data you’re looking for.
Dr. Philip Oubre (11:07):
Literally big pharma took a mold toxin and turned it into an immune suppression drug called CellCept. And when our patients are taking CellCept and we do their mycotoxin testing, you can see it’s outrageous levels of mycophenolate. So yes, mold absolutely has figured out how to suppress and confuse your immune system. We don’t know how it’s done it, but it’s a process.
Aubree Steen, FNTP (11:29):
Yeah. And the reason why we bring up all of these, so these are commonly overgrown in the gut. It’s different from systemic toxins that you can test, like mycotoxins or environmental toxins. This is live living, growing mold, yeast, fungus in your bowels.
Aubree Steen, FNTP (11:43):
So I like the stool study too, because when you see the IGA, that stiff arm raised, it means there is something especially affecting that mucosal area in your immune system, in your gut. I think if that’s a standard on every single test, I mean, people have figured it out. Your gut health determines your immunity.
Dr. Philip Oubre (12:00):
Absolutely. So, Aubree mentioned a phrase I often call the IGA, the fecal secretory IGA as a stiff arm. So if you’re familiar with football at all, I’m not the greatest football person, but if you’re familiar with football at all, the stiff arm is when a player’s running down, the way … I’ll stiff arm this plant. When a player is running down the way and someone tries to tackle them, they just put a stiff arm, hit the face or the helmet, then they basically can’t tackle, they’ll fall over. So, that’s basically what the IGA is. The IGA is not really designed to be a killer. It’s not designed to be a … I know, it’s not a, “Don’t come near me.” It’s a, “I want you this far away. I don’t want you to any closer because then I’m upset, but I also don’t want you any further. I just want you about that far away.”
Dr. Philip Oubre (12:43):
So that’s why we like to see that IGA in the middle, it doesn’t need to be too low. It’s immune suppression. It doesn’t need to be too high. It means the immune system’s active and irritated. We’ll get into kind of treatment and other things we can do in the gut. But one thing we want to mention at least right now, as a takeaway message, is Saccharomyces boulardii is one of our favorite probiotics to add, yes, we pretty much put everyone on it, including ourselves. The reason why, Saccharomyces boulardii doesn’t actually grow inside of the human intestinal tract. But it, for some reason, kills bad bacteria, kills yeast and fungus. And to date, it is the only thing that I know that boosts IGA, fecal secretory IGA.
Dr. Philip Oubre (13:20):
So if you get your doctor to order a fecal secretory IGA … we do the full panel stool study through Genova called GI effects. There’s other labs that do it. So if you do that whole panel, you’ll see your fecal secretory IGA, but any doctor can order that. And if yours is low, definitely add SAC B. Even if yours isn’t low, add SAC B. If you’re alive and a human, add SAC B.
Aubree Steen, FNTP (13:42):
Add SAC B. Just add it. Whatever. It doesn’t matter.
Dr. Philip Oubre (13:46):
And SAC B can easily be found. The probiotic we usually use that has it is called ultra flora spectrum. It’s from Metagenics. You can buy it on our store, if you would like. But SAC B can also be found just regular over the counter. It’s made as, not a prescription, a brand name called Florastor. So that’s a decent version of SAC B, not our favorite, but really easy to find.
Aubree Steen, FNTP (14:07):
Right. Perfect. So I think some things to take into consideration, understand, do you have overgrowth? Do you have mold, candida, fungus, yeast? If you’re always getting sick, have your doctor or your nutritionist check your gut health with a stool study, a urine study, whatever you need. Stool study is our preference, but if you need to check anything else, look at that too. Be aware of food sensitivities and allergies, so are you eating those highly inflammatory foods, which we’ll dive into next video, and then just go look at lifestyle too, which we’re also going to dive into.
Dr. Philip Oubre (14:37):
Aubree Steen, FNTP (14:38):
Dr. Philip Oubre (14:38):
So check out our next video.
Aubree Steen, FNTP (14:40):
Perfect. And hit subscribe and then a little bell to get alerts when we make videos so we can constantly be in your feed. Okay.